In September of 1861, the Union army issued General Orders no. 33, giving detailed instructions regarding burial procedures for slain soldiers. The Orders read in part, "In order to secure, as far as possible, the decent interment of those who have fallen, or may fall, in battle, it is made the duty of Commanding Generals to lay off plots of ground in some suitable spot near every battlefield..." It went on to say, "...with headboards to the graves bearing numbers, and, when practicable, the names of the persons buried in them."
When language such as "as far as possible" and "when practicable" is employed what can it lead to? According to author Drew Gilpin Faust, in her book This republic of Suffering: Death and The American Civil War, such language made the instructions "more an aspiration than an order, and commanders treated it as such." Faust goes on to write, "...more than 40 percent of deceased Yankees and a far greater proportion of Confederates - perished without names..."
This is not how it's done today. In fact, the United States expends more than $100 million each year in the effort to find and identify the approximately 88,000 individuals still missing from World War 2, Korea and Vietnam. The obligation of the state to account for and return - either dead or alive - every soldier in its service is unquestioned.
So language is important. Words are important. So when the Scriptures tell us:
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
(Acts 17:30-31 , ESV) , how should we respond?
God's command is not repent as far as possible, or repent when practicable. No, this command is not something that we simply aspire to as far as possible, it is a command we must expend our all to obey.
Pastor Van Morris
Pastor Van Morris
Calvary Christian Center
850 Fisher Lane
Mt Washington, KY 40047